Life in a small town, The Inner Struggle

Common Sense … & Wisdom …

“Deep Peace”, Bill Douglas, from the album of the same name, (1996)

Revisited my post from the 6th of July   especially the last half which was a quote from the Book of Wisdom … Wisdom 7 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA) Seems the primary English translation from the Latin Vulgate, the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible is not “copyrighted”.

The Douay–Rheims Bible is a translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English made by members of the Catholic seminary English College, Douai, France. It is the foundation on which nearly all English Catholic versions are still based.

It was translated principally by Gregory Martin, an Oxford-trained scholar, working in the circle of English Catholic exiles on the Continent, under the sponsorship of William (later Cardinal) Allen.

The New Testament appeared at Rheims in 1582; the Old Testament at Douai in 1609. The translation, although competent, exhibited a taste for Latinisms that was not uncommon in English writing of the time but seemed excessive in the eyes of later generations. The New Testament influenced the Authorized Version.

Between 1749 and 1752, English bishop Richard Challoner substantially revised the translation with an aim to improve readability and comprehensibility. Bishop Challoner’s revised version is the one I use, published by TAN in the U.S. in 1989.

It was first published in America in 1790 by Mathew Carey of Philadelphia. Several American editions followed in the 19th and early 20th centuries; prominent among them the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition Version.

Wisdom 7: 1-3

*****

1 I myself also am a mortal man, like all others, and of the race of him, that was first made of the earth, and in the womb of my mother I was fashioned to be flesh.

2 In the time of ten months I was compacted in blood, of the seed of man, and the pleasure of sleep concurring.

3 And being born I drew in the common air, and fell upon the earth, that is made alike, and the first voice which I uttered was crying, as all others do.

*****

“I myself also am a mortal man, like all others”, I especially like this chapter of Wisdom. It speaks to the true commonality of mankind, rather than our stylish modern “Common Sense”.  Commonality transcends cultures and societies and goes to the root of what is truly human.

These days, I enjoy watching foreign shows on Netflix, especially since most haven’t succumbed to the Hollywood direction of the main characters hopping into bed with every creature they meet on the first date, a kind of smorgasbord of passion and animal lust, all lungs and sweaty thorax and four hours in makeup to look hot in bed. No more western TV for me, no joy there at all, just a reflection of a dead end quest for sensate immortality and distraction.

So, I watched a show last night in which one of the protagonists explained to a grieving friend how it all passes away … “All joy passes away with time, but so does sorrow and sadness” or something to that effect. I thought is was an apt comment about our times and the goals and choices held up to us by the world as “desirable” and “satisfying”.

St. Paul said: “We are fools for Christ.” … “we are weak, but you are strong; you are honourable, but we without honour. 11Even unto this hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no fixed abode; 12And we labour, working with our own hands: we are reviled, and we bless; we are persecuted, and we suffer it. 13We are blasphemed, and we entreat; we are made as the refuse of this world, the offscouring of all even until now.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13)

Venerable Fulton Sheen

Much of the rest of this post is drawn from my readings of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Cardinal John Henry Newman. Specifically from:

John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, bk. 6, no. 7 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1977), 1241-45.

and

Fulton J. Sheen, Go to Heaven: A Spiritual Road Map to Eternity (p. 132). Ignatius Press.

Much is made these days of “Common Sense” as if somehow, “all right thinking persons” have common sense … hence, in our polite society, there is alleged a commonality of “common sense” amongst those “who think like me and agree with me”. This commonality permits me to virtue signal my esteem of others without ever taking my eyes off myself in the mirror.

Now, common sense never drove any man crazy, common sense supposedly defines “sanity”. But let’s think about this just a bit, this bald assumption about “common” sense.

Common sense never climbed mountains and certainly never cast a mountain into the sea in the biblical sense, common sense is not in any way about faith. Common sense is not violent and yet, violence is the commonest thing in our culture, in our society, and in our world.

Common sense never walked on the moon, or flew a plane or wrote a symphony, and common sense certainly never ran into a burning high rise to save lives.

Common sense never moves towards the sound of the guns, never makes a man willing to offer up his life, and yet it is in losing our life that we put into practice “greater love hath no man”.

Life sometimes can be saved by walking within an inch of death, facing the raging fire, standing firm against impossible odds, in jumping down a cliff, but common sense never makes those sort of jumps.

The soldier at times can cut his way out of his surrounding enemies, perhaps to save his comrades, or perhaps fall upon the grenade to save the rest, but he must have an uncommon carelessness about dying—and common sense does not permit that carelessness.

The Kingdom of heaven can sometimes be gained only by plucking out an eye—but common sense never plucked it out. Common sense is all about self, the “me first” knee jerk reaction.

Common sense makes a man die only for the sake of dying, for there is no choice about dieing, right? All that matters ultimately is dieing without pain, or loss of “dignity”.

It is not common sense, but love and a spirit of self sacrifice which makes a man choose to die for the sake of living—and it is the love of Jesus Christ crucified, which produces the wisdom of heaven at the cost of the foolishness of self sacrifice, of the abandonment of self, in the eyes of the world.

Al Pacino, Devil’s Advocate

Love makes men throw down their lives to take them up again, makes men sell fields for the pearl of great price, makes men treat the world as a trinket, laugh at death, and offer up everything for the one loved.

No matter the opinion of “common sense”, the opinion of the world, the Gospel of Christ is not a gospel of sorrow.

Our contemporary society’s view is that this life is made for pleasure and happiness. Any other view is ridiculed as foolishness. But to those who have actually experienced a few decades of this world, to those who have looked under the surface, it tells a very different tale.

Our doctrine of the Cross teaches the very same lesson which this world teaches to those who live long enough in it, who have much experience in it, who have lived it. Our doctrine of the Cross teaches this lesson more forcibly, but after all it is the very same lesson.

Even today, at this advanced age, some of my friends, when talking about other friends, not present, and often no longer in the world, will say “… and then he got religion”, as if this were like getting some illness. No doubt they say the same thing about me when I am not around. From my viewpoint this is simply the process of waking up … to a new dawn.

Someone famous once said: “The world is sweet to the lips, but bitter to the taste. It pleases us at first, but not at last. It looks gay on the outside, but evil and misery lie concealed within”. When a man has passed a certain number of years in it, he cries out with the Preacher, ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’

And if he doesn’t “get religion” … he will be forced to say: “All is vanity and vexation of spirit; all is disappointment; all is sorrow; all is pain”. Without the doctrine of the Cross we are invited to accept the culture of death, to escape our pain and disillusion, to accept evil with only a whimper and a sigh, as we stare, runny-eyed into the chasm of the banal..

The judgments of God upon our sins, upon our worship of the god of self, are concealed within the very fabric of the world itself, and eventually these force all men to grief whether they want it or not. The doctrine of the Cross merely anticipates for us the experience of the world. It is a “sneak preview” of the truth of eternity.

The doctrine of the Cross interferes with the common sense superficial view, and with finding a vain transitory joy in what we see and taste and feel, and experience. The doctrine of the Cross forbids our immediate enjoyment, but it grants enjoyment in truth and fullness afterwards. It only forbids us to begin with enjoyment. It only says, if you begin with pleasure you will end in pain.

Blessed John Henry Newman

The doctrine of the Cross bids us begin with the Cross, and in that Cross we shall at first find sorrow, but in a while peace and comfort will rise out of that sorrow.

That Cross leads us to conversion, to mourning, repentance, humiliation, prayer, fasting; we shall sorrow for our sins, we shall sorrow with Christ’s suffering; but all this sorrow will only be undergone in, and result in a happiness far greater than the enjoyment which the world gives—though careless worldly minds will not believe this because it defies common sense.

Careless worldly minds, minds obsessed with “common sense”, ridicule the notion of happiness through sorrow, because they never have tasted it, and consider it a mere matter of word play, semantic gymnastics. In a world of ideology, that truth which religious persons think decent and proper, and try to believe themselves, and to get others to believe, is to the common sense mind impossible, no right minded person really feels that truth.

But in order to truly enjoy this world one must begin with the world unseen, the supernatural world. We must first abstain from the world to truly enjoy the world. We must first fast in order to truly feast. Only those who have learned not to abuse the world are able to use the world. They alone inherit the world, who take it as only a shadow of the world to come, and who, for that world to come, relinquish this world.

“I myself also am a mortal man, like all others”. The “Common Sense” of self worship is a dead end. “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne. from “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, and severall steps in my Sicknes“, written in 1624

Cheers

Joe

 Apollo 15 mission, 1971

Composite of photographs from the Apollo 15 mission, 1971

Common Sense?

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